HC Deb 02 July 1940 vol 362 c668
68. Major Lloyd

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will consider the immediate formation under compulsory powers of a civilian labour corps, as a supplement to the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, to include, among others, suitable able-bodied unemployed and registered conscientious objectors, engaged at Army rates of pay, to assist the military authorities in the rapid construction of defensive works throughout the country, thus avoiding the expense of contract labour for such purposes?

Mr. Assheton

My right hon. Friend has consulted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, with whom rests the responsibility for deciding what defence works are necessary. He understands that defence works are at present being carried out partly by contract, and partly by the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps. Consideration is being given to the question of supplementing by other methods the work done in this way; but, in existing circumstances, where speed and efficiency are of major importance, my right hon. Friend does not think it would be desirable to adopt the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion.

Major Lloyd

Is the hon. Member aware that this does not entirely represent the view of the military authorities, who have to pay a very high price indeed for contract labour? Why should the Government be so afraid of the word "compulsion," when we have given them compulsory powers?

Mr. Assheton

That question is certainly one for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and not for me.